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By Bunty Avieson

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Sample text

The whole suburb, with thousands of residences and businesses, has been without a working telephone for three months. One night someone dug up all the copper wiring and stole it to resell on the black market. After three agonising months, with letters in the newspapers complaining about businesses going broke, the copper has been replaced but still the telephones don’t work. It takes a series of bribes to the linesmen in each area to get the telephones ‘reconnected’. At every level of management they are breathtakingly obvious about seeking bribes to do the jobs they are paid to do.

As soon as the first batch of concrete is ready they are off, holding out big tin cans or metal trays for the cement mixer to pile on sloppy, wet concrete. They hoist these onto their heads and, balancing them with one hand, make their way quickly and expertly up a series of bamboo ladders, along exposed beams to where it is needed. They dump it for the women to smooth into place, and file back, passing each other on the ladders. There must be fifty or sixty of them, pouring a few cubic metres of concrete.

Any time of the day or evening she will wander on in for a coo. The Tibetans don’t understand our western preoccupation with privacy so consequently we have none. Unless the door is locked, it is an open invitation for anyone to enter. The Tibetans wouldn’t be the least bit fussed if we wandered into their homes – hell, they’d make us tea and ask after the family. The guesthouse manager’s wife gives me a huge shock when, wanting more than just a polite cuddle, she plucks Kathryn from our bed and suddenly takes off with her, running out the door.

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